“Old Reliable” Chocolate Chip Cookies

Cookies and Milk, the ultimate comfort food

Cookies and Milk, the ultimate comfort food

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Over the years, I have trialed dozens of recipes for Choc Chip Cookies with varying success.  Most of them are too sweet, many are finicky and unreliable recipes, others too chunky or just the wrong proportion of cookie to “bits”. This is the one I come back to. It produces cookies with a nice crunchy texture that will survive a dunk in fresh milk. The subtle vanilla-peanut flavours are perfect with cocoa or fresh coffee too. What’s not to love?

Of course we all know the true joy of cookies lies in their childhood associations. The smell of them baking, filling the house with delicious smells and anticipation. The guilty pleasure of eating the dough or burning tongue and fingers because we were unable to resist them fresh from the oven. They featured on the menus of tea parties, picnics with friends and solitary midnight snacks. Most of all they eased the pain of skinned knees and broken hearts. I have vivid memories of a sympathetic Dad sharing cookies, cuddles and the odd hanky on these occasions. That makes them the ultimate comfort food for me. On the anniversary of his death, I am feeling the need for a little comfort, so I shall put some Bach on the stereo and whip up a batch to share with the Junior Sorority.

Sticky Pecan Cinnamon Scrolls

Warm Cinnamon Pecan Scroll with honey Icecream .. bliss

Warm Cinnamon Pecan Scroll with honey icecream .. bliss

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For decades I convinced myself that I couldn’t bake with yeast. That it was complicated and best left to “professionals”. I gazed with lustful eyes at the soft, delicate baked goods of others and passed over their recipes when searching for something new to try. The New Year brought with it the resolve to branch out, venture into unexplored fields and learn new skills. I took down neglected recipe books, blew the dust from their virginal pages  .. and found this treasure. I am already plotting decadent variations using Apple Berry Jam 🙂

Kiwi’s Semolina pudding

you should have seen her face ..

you should have seen her face ..

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Kiwi was not born in New Zealand, any more than Kiwifruit comes from that picturesque, rugged country. She does however, really love the flightless bird native to the Land of the Long White Cloud, so “Kiwi” she is.  For the past month she has been visiting us and we’ve enjoyed both her company and the excuse to revisit favourite spots. There really is nothing like playing Tour Guide to help you see your surroundings through some else’s eyes. Having braved a long arduous journey,  trial-by-vegemite and the attentions of local wildlife (some of it eight-legged), Kiwi has thrown herself into life in Casa De Chaos. Her delighted smiles as we explore food, wine and scenery has been a highlight of our year. Sadly, we are about to bid her farewell which called for a special pull-all-the-stops menu. Comfort food is the priority here, and it’s hard to go by this traditional Northern European dessert. In Germany it’s Grießkoch or Grießbrei. In the Netherlands it’s Griessmeel or Griesmeel pap depending on whether you make it with or without almonds. In English speaking countries it’s Semolina Pudding or Sweet Grits. Whatever you call it, it’s delicious and Kiwi wore a seraphic smile as she devoured it. I doubt I shall ever be able to make it again without thinking of that smile 🙂

Thai Spiced Chicken Noodle Soup

Thai Spiced Chicken Noodle Soup

Thai Spiced Chicken Noodle Soup

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Most of us have memories of Chicken Noodle Soup in one form or another, often associated with feeling ill. There is something warm and comforting about nice rich broth, tender chunks of chicken and slurpy noodles. There are also sound nutritional benefits to such broths, particularly after a tummy upset and/or fever. Salts, electrolytes and easily digested proteins are just a few. My version includes sesame oil, garlic, ginger, lemongrass and basil, all used as anti-microbials to fight the effects of influenza, colds, fever, stomach upsets and as a general tonic in many cultures. This makes for very tasty medicine indeed.

Baked Rice Pudding

Baked Rice Pudding

Baked Rice Pudding

This dish is another comfort food classic for cold Winter’s nights. Creamy, sweet rice custard offset by the earthy aromas of nutmeg. Delicious hot or cold, try it accompanied by fresh or poached fruit, drizzled with fresh cream. Better yet, up the ante and smother it with almond custard 🙂